LOMEA. MYSTERY ATLANTIS IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
Lomea, Mystery Atlantis of the English Channel
The ancient Romans called it, Infera Insular, (Low Island), a beautiful and fertile island off of the Kent coast described as a suitable stopping off place for galleys crossing the English Channel. That island, like Atlantis, no longer exists and many doubt whether it really did.
Adding to the mystery is that on certain nights, fishermen and sailors have reported hearing the ghostly ringing of bells from the sunken the church. Strange lights, like those from the windows of houses near the shore, have also been sighted and this raises a ghostly mystery.
It is known that in prehistory, England was not an island and the English Channel did not exist. The Channel developed gradually in what is known as the Weald-Artois chalk range, sometime between 5,000 – 76,000 BC. It is entirely possible that the hills and highpoints of this region remained as islands as the land sunk under the waves, perhaps for many centuries. The geological argument for the existence of Infera Insular as the last of these islands is therefore perfectly sound. Other history supports the story.
The earliest recorded use of the name ‘Lomea’ traces back to 1590, but this was long after the island had been lost and turned into what are now called the Goodwin Sands. Core samples of this shallow ten mile long sandbank, taken in 1817, discovered a ridge of clay beneath the sand and silt. This is supposedly the remains of the former island.
It is claimed that during the 1st half of the 11th century, the island was owned by Earl Godwin, Earl of Wessex . When he fell out of favour the land was granted to St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. The story is that the Abbot refused to pay the upkeep for the coastal defences and the island was inundated in a storm. Some date this storm as occurring during the winter of 1085/86, others claim it as being the great storm of 1099, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the period.
It would be going too far to claim that Lomea in anyway corresponds to Plato’s Atlantis, other than despite the evidence, there is as great deal of denial that either ever existed. This also relates to the subject of ghosts.
While the ghostly sound of church bells from this inundated island have been reported, so too have ghostly sighting of ships drawn to their doom on those deadly remains of this island.
Perhaps the most famous is the Lady Lovibond, a three masted schooner lost with all hands on February 13th, 1748. This story holds further intrigue because both Simon Read the Captain, and First Mate, John Rivers were rivals in love for a girl named Annetta. She had finally chosen the Captain and joined him on the journey to England where they were to be wed. Rumour has it that in a fit of jealous rage, the First Mate waited until nightfall, killed the helmsman and deliberately drove the ship onto the Goodwin Sands.
Exactly 50 years after the wreck, February 13th, 1798, the Master of the coaster Edenbridge reported that he almost collided with a schooner identified as the Lady Lovibond. Another sighting was reported in 1848, then 1898 and 1948. The Lady Lovibond continues her ghostly voyage, the ghosts of the Captain and Annetta seeking to marry, the First Mate’s ghost seeking to prevent them.
In another story and during the early stages of the Second World War, a Mr George Carter, duty lookout on the East Goodwin lightship, sighted an old paddle steamer as it ran onto the sands. He sounded the alarm and the Ramsgate lifeboat set out to rescue survivors, but no wreck was found and no paddle steamer reported missing.
Later investigation identified this ship as the SS Violet, a cross-Channel ferry. The SS Violet had been lost with all passengers and crew over a century before.
Another ghost ship plying the Goodwin Sands is said to be a Spanish Galleon, one of those sent with the Spanish Armada and routed by Drake. The crew supposedly mutinied after Drake’s attack, but slaying their officers left them unable to navigate and high winds drove them onto the sands where all the crew perished.
It is said that 13 men of war ships and 40 merchant vessels along with over 2,000 lives were lost during the Great Storm of 1703, but only one of these, the frigate H.M.S. Northumberland, which was lost with all hands, is said to haunt the sands. Why this particular ship should return when so many others were lost is another element to this mystery.
Countless ships and lives have been lost and there has always been speculation that some of this has been due to the activity of wreckers, but wreckers supposedly acted to lure ships onto the shore so that they could pirate the cargo. The many stories of wreckers and their activities is one of the greatly exaggerated myths and if they really existed, this would have been a rare activity indeed. Also, any wreck on the Goodwin Sands is too far from shore for that to be safely done and any pirate vessel would face the risk of a similar fate.
The legend of wreckers and their activities connects back to the legend of the mysterious Island of Lomea, said to be a fertile land with a harbour from which its produce would be transported.
Those ghostly lights and church bells entice vessels into what sailors believe is a safe harbour. Yet it is a ghostly harbour in a ghostly land that still attracts vessels to its embrace. On entering these become ghost ships doomed to sail from this ghostly harbour on an island that many still deny ever existed, but you never know!